andPlay Interviewed by Sugar Vendil
On February 11, violin-viola duo andPlay performed a concert inspired by The Borrowers for our “Notes on Fiction” series, where local ensembles curate concerts that inspired by fiction. Their concert featured contemporary classical music by young, up-and-coming composers. We sat down with andPlay to talk music, books, and snacks, which seem to be an essential part of their creative process!
Photo credit: Aleks Karjaka
How did you two meet and how long have you been working together?
Hannah Levinson, violist: We first met at Oberlin College in 2007—I was friends with one of Maya's roommates so that's actually how we initially met, not through music. Later, we reconnected at our mutual friend's wedding right before Maya had moved to NYC in 2011. We both started playing in a new music ensemble that had a summer residency on Fire Island. They asked if any of us were interested in going to perform some concerts (i.e., hang out on the beach) and Maya asked if I was interested in going. andPlay was born!
We’re excited to have you at The Center for Fiction this February for your concert inspired by “The Borrowers.” Did the music bring you to the book or the book to the music? Or was it a spontaneous collision?
Maya Bennardo, violinist: The moment we played Bezier by David Bird we immediately connected it to The Borrowers. Every sound in that piece sounds like a miniaturized version of a sound in our world. One section sounded like tiny neighing horses – the size of the mice! We always referred to that sound as the Borrower's horses. When we found out about The Center for Fiction's series, there was no doubt in our mind that we were destined to play a concert based on The Borrowers.
In “The Borrowers,” you pair a book that was published in 1952 with music written within the last decade. It’s such an interesting combination, because it’s a classic tale set to future sounds, relative to the time in which the story takes place. Could you tell us about your curatorial process?
HL: Similar to our experience with Bezier, we chose the pieces that we will be performing based on the connections we made between the sounds and the book. We were also really inspired by the idea of "large vs. small," represented in the book through the relationship between the Borrowers and the humans. We chose compositions that playfully explored this idea as a way to musically travel the plot of the novel.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors? Anyone you'd want to collaborate with in the future?
MB: We are both currently obsessed with the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind. I also love Zadie Smith, Elena Ferrante (whose books I am reading in Italian!), and Jhumpa Lahiri. This is the first time we have thought about collaborating with a "book," but it might inspire some future projects, who knows!
What else are you working on at the moment?
HL: You can check out some of our videos/audio on our website www.andplayduo.com.
We are a "snack-first" ensemble, so we thought we would share our current snack obsessions with you: Marrakesh Carrot Salad from the Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook (recipe can be found through the Sprouted Kitchen blog), and Ovenly's Pistachio Cardamom bread—our favorite andPlay meeting treat!
andPlay is committed to expanding the existing violin/viola duo repertoire through performing rarely heard works and commissioning emerging composers. This New York City based duo of Maya Bennardo, violin, and Hannah Levinson, viola, first played to an eager crowd on Fire Island in the summer of 2012, and has since performed at venues such as The Stone, Firehouse Space and The Tank. andPlay has also appeared on the PLG Arts, East Bank New Music, Composer’s Voice, and the Concerts on the Slope series. The success of their first commissioned piece, Pulling Anchor by Matt Frey, led them to pursue similar opportunities with other composers, premiering thirteen new pieces in the three years since their founding, including works by David Bird, Nicholas DeMaison, and Robert Honstein. Continuing with this tradition, andPlay will work with five composers this upcoming season, including Paul Kerekes, Brian Petuch, and Tony Morasco.
Maya and Hannah met while studying at Oberlin Conservatory, and continued their educations at New York University and the Manhattan School of Music. Despite living on opposite sides of the city, the members of andPlay enjoy taking the subway to meet for rehearsals and delicious baked goods.